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Saturday, October 30, 2010

8th Grade Sofia Field Trip Part 3

Next stop - the National Museum of Natural History.

To be honest... I was disappointed. Granted, "home" to me is home to the Smithsonian Natural History museum, which is amazing... so I may have had slightly unrealistic expectations. But Bulgaria is home to some absolutely incredible natural phenomenons, and the entire museum (all 4 floors of it) was attributed to stuffed dead animals, frogs in fermaldahyde, and preserved moths and butterflies. And, unless I'm mistaken, I pretty sure that there polar bear never roamed this here land...

But hey, maybe that cute little Jaguar did.

The girls would have begged me to take pictures of them with the various animals all day, but about 45 minutes into our visit to this museum (we were at the History museum for a long while), stomachs were growling and the boys were protesting.
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8th Grade Sofia Field Trip Part 2

On our way to the second museum, we stopped at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the center of Sofia near Parliament. The "Gem of the Balkans," this Eastern Orthodox church is one of the largest in the world, and the second largest on the entire Balkan peninsula (I believe the biggest is in Serbia).

The group on the side steps... kinda mad it turns out blurry.

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8th Grade Sofia Field Trip Part 1

Today was our final field trip from the America for Bulgaria Foundation PCPP grant we received around the new year.

We took most of the 8th grade class to Sofia, and spent the day at museums and then a late lunch at the mall before heading back to Samokov. Of all the activities we do with the kids, I definitely think that getting them AWAY from Samokov (and the Roma neighborhood in general) is probably the most beneficial thing we can do for these youth. In general, their worlds are very small. Bringing history and opportunity to life helps resonate the bigger picture that we try to encourage them to aspire to. Everything at the museums was so interesting to them - it was great to see their eyes light up as they resisted pressing their faces up to the glass to admire old Bulgarian relics from hundreds of years ago.

The whole gang in front of the National History Museum in Sofia. To all you PCVs in BG, I highly recommend this one! They've got some great stuff in here.

They were filming a ballroom dance presentation for Bulgarian national tv while we were there in one of the exhibit rooms. The kids were mesmerized - it was pretty cool!

Costume exhibit upstairs with three of my kids posing in front of a palace throne.

Old army helicopter outside with some of our boys.
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Svetlina Halloween Party 2010

Yesterday afternoon revolved around what could quite possibly be defined as the most insane hour of my life... Yes, our Halloween party was over that fast, but it was such a zoo!! And, because its what is most important, the kids had an absolute blast.

With my job, I never quite know whether to plan for 5 kids, or 50. Usually its ok, I just alter plans slightly or attempt activities that can be adapted based on attendance. It is not uncommon to plan an afterschool activity and then never have kids show up, and, using yesterday as a prime example, sometimes half the school wants to show up.

Not every kid got to play every game this year, but watching the "audience" effect was almost as entertaining as the games themselves.

Toilet paper mummy contest was a big hit!

Digging for "eyeballs" in a bowl full of "brain mush."

My GORGEOUS boss, Katya. Obi4am te. ;)

I have decided that carving a pumpkin by yourself, whether it is for sheer party decoration purposes or not, is THE single most depressing activity ever. Probably. But I think its cute. :)

I LOVE 5th graders! This little dude was one of the few that actually showed up in a costume, instead of walking in the door, going straight up to me, and asking why I didn't make them a mask. I didn't tell them that it probably had something to do that I was busy planning a party for 50 kids...

I had a couple art activities planned (pumpkins can be expensive, so they were supposed to make paper cut-out Jack O Lanterns), but the game room was so crazy I snuck in here to take a single photo and then went back out to turn the music off for the "Hot Pumpkin" (aka Hot Potato) game outside. Less than half an hour later the crafts room was clean and I don't remember seeing any finished products. Interesting...

Passing around my pumpkin (butternut squash... but I forgot that word in Bulgarian so the kids played along with my just calling it a pumpkin) which got SO abused. Please note it is currently plummeting to the floor. I cooked the meat last night - it still has a dream in this world to be more than just a game prop.

Bobbing for apples, of course!!

Absolutely crazy... but a definite success.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

I feel like I am very disillusioned about what life in America (sounds so foreign as I write this) will be like when I finally get HOME.

But in the meantime, the dreaming is fun. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Walking in an...

OCTOBER wonderland????

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Morning with the littles

It was my last day with the kinderbabies before Halloween this weekend, so I took the opportunity to introduce the little ones to the holiday. I told them about costumes and candy and everything scary, and then we practiced our facial features by drawing Jack O' Lanterns together. They did such a great job!!

Hard at work.

Sasho! One of my sweet boys from last year.

Nushka - I can never understand what this sweetheart says, but she is ALWAYS cheesing and you just can't help but love her.

Ivo and his new buddy, Justin.

Malka Yanitsa

Little Ivo

One of this things that I'll never get used to here, is that creativity and thinking outside the box is not encouraged. In fact, it might even be safe to say that it's DIScouraged. In general, teachers tell kids exactly what to draw and what colors to make things, and it drives me nuts. So when its MY time to be in charge, it's all up to their creative genius. If they want three eyes - go for it. If you want a happy pumpkin - have a ball. If you have it in you to be Picaso's protege like Boni here - PLEASE DO!!

Great job, Vasko!!

The class and everyone's new favorite Rilski basketballist
(please also note that my man Hristo is back these year! Green shirt, standing right up front).

I'm tellin ya, these little guys keep me going. They did such a great job!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The great pinata adventure!!

Today started out great... woke up early, had an actual homecooked breakfast with a new friend, talked about life and Jesus, and then had an early start to what promised to be a productive day.

Then I got some bad news at work (bad news of the "yet another one of your 14 year old students is about to get married" kind).

So I went home, made some orange halloween cookies for the kinderbabies, then tackled my pinata.

And the good news is that it is finally dry! WOOHOO!!! With plenty of time to get painted.

The bad news is that I should have dug a little deeper into my chasm of lost high school science information: if you make a balloon form, papier-mache pinata in a cold Bulgarian kitchen, and then move it to a room with a heater, it WILL explode.


My perfect, spherical, just BEGGING to be turned into the world's most amazing Jack O Lantern pinata... pinata.

Take THAT - those of you who said it couldn't be done with just newspaper, flour and water. HA.


But its ok. I kinda needed a good laugh today.... :)
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Last years Halloween party with my kids fell somewhere in the middle of our month-long Swine Flu "Vacation," and thus... never happened. The kids have been asking whether or not we will have one this year for awhile now, so I am doing my best to make sure that this year's party is epic. ;)

Or, as epic as possible in a country that doesn't exactly celebrate the holiday... as a matter of fact, it doesn't even sell supplies to make this task very easy.

But that's ok - because I'm a PC volunteer.

And apparently rather resourceful. 

It's in the job description. 

Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that having a pinata would be fun. You know, middle school boys swinging bats while blindfolded. How is that NOT a good idea???

Of course, in order to be festive (and let's be real for a minute, I AM an overachiever), I'm envisioning a bright orange, Jack O Lantern pinata. 

I actually managed to locate one of those "fist-pumping" balloons so the form for my papier-mache pinata is actually ROUND... but DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD PAPIER-MACHE IS TO DEAL WITH???

I've been shredding newspaper, mixing flour and water, and sludging through this stuff allllll day. 

I'm calling it a night, but its so cold I'm not sure its going to solidify on me!

6te vidime... 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The reality of not being home for my third holiday season in a row is really starting to get to me... especially now that I have to officially come to terms with the fact that my Peace Corps family is no longer in country to celebrate in our traditional Oliver Twist/sitting on the floor/drinking wine from jars/traversing the country with a frozen turkey fashion.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In the last three weeks, I have seen the sun THREE times. 

That's it.

All this gray and dampness really starts to take a toll on your soul...

FINALLY, though, we have a forecast of sunny skies all week!

My spirit could really use the improvement. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

For as long as I can remember, my life's main goal has been to follow my passion to serve in the inner city. Granted, the specifics of this goal have changed and morphed as far as a target audience, but the general premise has stayed the same.

When I started at Elon, I quickly found my place at the Boys and Girls Club, and worked each summer at camps and clubs for at-risk kids. It wasn't until my term on staff with CSM in New York City that God opened my eyes to whole new realm of ministry and service that I enjoyed and was even more comfortable in.

As I worked on the streets of the Big Apple, I found myself at ease in a level of relational ministry that had always intimidated me before. Kids are a great challenge, but they are also open and forgiving. I found myself longing to sit across from people the world normally overlooks. I found myself craving their life story, and relishing the instant connection that came when someone who is now slow to trust after chronic hardship, trusts you with the very essence of who they are.

In 2008 I met Maximus in the Lower East Side of NYC. An incredible man who had served his country faithfully years ago, has spent the better part of the last decade scouting out scaffolding and unclaimed parkbenches in one of the most romanticized cities in the world. It was at this point that I realized where God was calling me.

I will always gravitate towards children - their energy and innocence and take on the world is contagious. But the Department of Veteran's Affairs estimates that on any given night, over 100,000 (over 1/3 of our countries homeless population) of our nation's heroes are living on the street. Over time, it took Vietnam vets (who account for over half of these homeless veterans) 8-10 years to become homeless. The number of Iraq/Afghanistan vets on the street is already growing, and it often takes them less than a year to see no alternative to a life on the streets. There is help out there, but these programs and shelters can only accommodate 20% of the veterans in need of services...

Many of you have asked me what's next in the grand adventure. THIS is the end goal. I can't express to you how proud I am of my big brother, my dad, my grandfather's, and my entire family for the many generations of patriotism and service they've given, but there are so many men and woman who haven't been as blessed as we have.

I'm not entirely sure what route to take to get where I believe God is calling me, but I'm also ready to enjoy the ride along the way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This is Vasko.

Well, this is Vasko and his unmatching (the other kids were all wearing black), way too huge pants.

Its his second year in the kindergarten English class with me.

Yesterday I was waiting for a friend at the bus station when Vasko and his family walked around the corner. All of the sudden I hear a little voice excitedly yell my name. As I turn around, I watch him walk straight into a sign pole. He bounced off, wiped his forehead with his left hand, and never stopped waving profusely with his right or grinning the entire time.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I heard TWICE yesterday (from two separate people) that this winter could be the coldest in Bulgaria in 1000 years. Not sure how legit that info is, but this week I have to say goodbye to the people I'll resent the most for making me suffer it alone - the group of PC volunteers I've been serving with for the last two years. 

B24s? I'm going to miss you guys like whoa. 

Off to Sofia today to say "dovizhdane."

Da ste zhivi, zdravi, i mnogo kusmet s vsichko!!

Shte mnogo mi lipsvate!

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm in an emotional funk right now. Since I believe its a FACT that all Peace Corps Volunteers in Bulgaria suffer from some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder (newbies, just you wait! ;)), I'm trying my best to blame it on the weather and not examine any more than I already have. But no matter what, I have time with the kinderbabies tomorrow to look forward to, and a skype date with my favorite newlywed on the agenda!

me:  bye love
 C:  bye love
 me:  hahahaha
 C:  haha
 me:  we should be friends
 C:  hahahahaaa
that's the best idea i've heard all day!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

I start back at the Kindergarten on TUESDAY!!! 

Can't wait :)
The school year is in full swing, and we're back to daily programming. Its hard to believe that the 6th graders I started with as a new volunteer are already in their technical year as 8th graders! The boys and girls are now split into two different classes. The boys are learning woodworking skills once a week, and the girls are doing sewing and craftwork. This is also a hard year for the girls... we started losing them last year already, but this is a big year that more start dropping out. While we try and retain them, as an organization, we are trying to embrace the inevitable - we can't hold on to them all. These older kids are still more than welcome at our program, and they get first dibs on our field trips and extra activities, but we're also trying to expand and work with the new students at the middle school!

These little guys are fifth graders, and absolutely adorable! Everything is so new and exciting now that they are finally middle schoolers, and they show up at the end of the day anxiously anticipating whatever activity we have for them that day. On Thursday, one of my colleagues came to do her weekly art activity. It was so cute to me that even though they were "just" coloring rice with water colors for next week's mosaics, each of them took such care in their work. :)

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